Correction: The number of weekly visitors at the food truck event was 400. The farmer’s market brings in 7,000. The story has been corrected to reflect this.
Food trucks haven’t been able to flourish in Chicago compared to other parts of the country, but slowly, neighborhood groups and elected officials are realizing how much they bring to their communities, how they help small business owners. The onslaught of anti-food truck rhetoric — a restaurant lobby fearful of competition, out-of-touch politicians, and angry NIMBYs who argue food trucks ruin the aesthetic of their blocks — may never let Chicago’s food truck and street vendor scenes reach their full potentials, but change is happening.
For example, on July 30, Logan Square debuted the first of its weekly food truck “Social Saturdays” at a new plaza, one designated for food trucks. The area, along the CTA’s Blue Line tracks, behind the Target on the 2400 block of Sacramento Avenue, allows trucks to gather without being concerned about parking tickets or being yelled at to move — the traditional bureaucratic ways the food truck industry has been stifled.
Giving Logan Square an accessible place to gather was paramount and for the inaugural Saturday, July 30, Logan Square Chamber Executive Director Nilda Esparza says the social drew a total of 400 who passed in and out. The food truck lineup fluctuates — finding people to work on a summer weekend isn’t easy. But there’s a core lineup of trucks including Soul & Smoke, the barbecue spot that recently opened a riverside location in Avondale. Others include Cafe Tola, the Mexican mini chain with a nearby location on Milwaukee Avenue. Esparza wanted to bring them into the fold, to make peace with any restaurants who may feel food trucks could be luring customers. Tamales Express and Cherubs Cafe round out the core, along with Nuts To Go. On any given Saturday, 10 trucks could show.
Local musicians and DJs are also part of the fun. Organizers secured city funds to beautify the space and make it more friendly. Esparza recently joined the chamber, but efforts to convert the plaza have gone back years, dating back to a 2004 study, as reported by Block Club Chicago. Esparza says they’ll make seasonal additions, like adding a pumpkin patch for Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Take a look at the scene from the event’s second week below.
Logan Square Social Saturdays, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays through October 29, on the 2400 block of Sacramento.